Blessed are the peacemakers
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Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."

FROM NICKY GUMBEL

A peacemaker desires to bring blessing to other people. So many around us lack inner peace. H.G. Wells wrote of Mister Polly, "He was not so much a human being as a civil war." We reflect our inner conflict between each other and realize that it is a small illustration of our lack of peace with God. Hence, this is a call for peace at all three levels: inner peace, peace between people and, most important of all, peace with God.

Jesus says that if we do so we will "be called sons of God." We will bear the family likeness of our heavenly Father because he is the ultimate peacemaker. Through the cross he made it possible for us to have peace with God (Romans 5:1). The cross has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between people (Ephesians 2:14) and it has made it possible for men and women to be at peace with themselves. This was not peace at any price, but a costly peace; the price was "his one and only Son" (John 3:16).

We are called to reconcile people to God in our evangelism. We implore others to "be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). We know that this is the only route to inner peace which is neither superficial nor deceptive, because it is a peace based on the objective reality of peace with God.

We are called also to bring peace between human beings. That is quite different from doing anything for a peaceful life. Sometimes we need to face up to difficult situations. We may even need to confront in order to make peace. But this is our calling as children of God. This may involve bringing people from apparently irreconcilable positions to a meeting of minds and hearts.

David Armstrong is an Irish Protestant, a Presbyterian, who worked in Magilligan Prison in Northern Ireland. His longing was to see men and women reconciled to God and reconciled to each other. Magilligan Prison used to hold terrorist prisoners for the last years of their sentences. The para-military organizations such as the IRA and the Protestant UVF operated in the jail also. As David prayed and preached about Jesus, many were converted. Jimmy Gibson, a Protestant, was a professional terrorist and had been involved in manipulating other prisoners. As he heard about Jesus he became more and more interested. One day he stopped David in the crowd and said, "I became a Christian last night."

Liam McCloskey was a Roman Catholic and a prominent member of the IRA. He was one of the two original hunger strikers at the Maze prison, part of the dirty protest with Bobby Sands. He would have died had his mother not signed a form giving permission for him to be force-fed. Now this man came to David and said he had just become a Christian by reading his Bible in his cell and wanted to give up his involvement with the IRA. He developed a real concern for the Protestants whom he had previously hated. After their release, Liam McCloskey and Jimmy Gibson traveled together, proclaiming reconciliation through the love of Jesus.

FROM ROBERT MOUNCE

The peace that Jesus enjoins is not a passive acceptance of whatever comes along, but an active involvement that confronts the problem and works through to a satisfactory reconciliation. Psalm 34:14 "Seek peace and pursue it."

FROM WILLIAM BARCLAY

The Bliss of Bringing Men Together

We must begin our study of this beatitude by investigating certain matters of meaning in it.

(1) First, there is the word peace. In Greek, the word is 'eirene' (GSN1515), and in Hebrew it is shalom (HSN7965). In Hebrew peace is never only a negative state; it never means only the absence of trouble; in Hebrew peace always means everything which makes for a man's highest good. In the east when one man says to another, Salaam--which is the same word--he does not mean that he wishes for the other man only the absence of evil things; he wishes for him tile presence of all good things. In the Bible peace means not only freedom from all trouble; it means enjoyment of all good.

(2) Second, it must carefully be noted what the beatitude is saying. The blessing is on the peace-makers, not necessarily on the peace-lovers. It very often happens that if a man loves peace in the wrong way, he succeeds in making trouble and not peace. We may, for instance, allow a threatening and dangerous situation to develop, and our defence is that for peace's sake we do not want to take any action. There is many a person who thinks that he is loving peace, when in fact he is piling up trouble for the future, because he refuses to face the situation and to take the action which the situation demands. The peace which the Bible calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them, and conquering them. What this beatitude demands is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things, and the making of peace, even when the way to peace is through struggle.

(3) The King James Version says that the peace-makers shall be called the children of God; the Greek more literally is that the peace-makers will be called the sons (huioi, GSN5207) of God. This is a typical Hebrew way of expression. Hebrew is not rich in adjectives, and often when Hebrew wishes to describe something, it uses, not an adjective, but the phrase son of... plus an abstract noun. Hence a man may be called a son of peace instead of a peaceful man. Barnabas is called a son of consolation instead of a consoling and comforting man. This beatitude says: Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God; what it means is: Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be doing a God-like work. The man who makes peace is engaged on the very work which the God of peace is doing (Rom.15:33; 2Cor.13:11; 1Th.5:23; Heb.13:20).

The meaning of this beatitude has been sought along three main lines.

(1) It has been suggested that, since shalom (HSN7965) means everything which makes for a man's highest good, this beatitude means: Blessed are those who make this world a better place for all men to live in. Abraham Lincoln once said: "Die when I may, I would like it to be said of me, that I always pulled up a weed and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow." This then would be the beatitude of those who have lifted the world a little further on.

(2) Most of the early scholars of the Church took this beatitude in a purely spiritual sense, and held that it meant: Blessed is the man who makes peace in his own heart and in his own soul. In every one of us there is an inner conflict between good and evil; we are always tugged in two directions at once; every man is at least to some extent a walking civil war. Happy indeed is the man who has won through to inner peace, in which the inner warfare is over, and his whole heart is given to God.

(3) But there is another meaning for this word peace. It is a meaning on which the Jewish Rabbis loved to dwell, and it is almost certainly the meaning which Jesus had in his mind. The Jewish Rabbis held that the highest task which a man can perform is to establish right relationships between man and man. That is what Jesus means.

There are people who are always storm-centers of trouble and bitterness and strife. Wherever they are they are either involved in quarrels themselves or the cause of quarrels between others. They are trouble-makers. There are people like that in almost every society and every Church, and such people are doing the devil's own work. On the other hand--thank God--there are people in whose presence bitterness cannot live, people who bridge the gulfs, and heal the breaches, and sweeten the bitternesses. Such people are doing a godlike work, for it is the great purpose of God to bring peace between men and himself, and between man and man. The man who divides men is doing the devil's work; the man who unites men is doing God's work.

So, then, this beatitude might read:

O the bliss of those who produce right relationships between man and man, for they are doing a godlike work!

FROM THE EVANGELICAL DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY

Topics: Peace

Text: The primary and basic idea of the biblical word "peace" (OT salom; NT eirene) is completeness, soundness, wholeness. It is a favorite biblical greeting (Gen. 29:6; Luke 24:36), and is found at the beginning or end of the NT epistles except James and I John. To this day it is one of the commonest words among the Semites. Dismissal is also expressed by the word (I Sam. 1:17). It means cessation from war (Josh. 9:15). Friendship between companions is expressed by it (Gen. 26:29; Ps. 28:3), as well as friendship with God through a covenant (Num. 25:12; Isa. 54:10). Contentment or anything working toward safety, welfare, and happiness is included in the concept (Isa. 32:17-18).

Peace has reference to health, prosperity, well-being, security, as well as quiet from war (Eccles. 3:8; Isa. 45:7). The prophet Isaiah pointed out repeatedly that there will be no peace for the wicked (Isa. 48:22; 57:21), even though many of the wicked continually seek to encourage themselves with a false peace (Jer. 6:14).

Peace is a condition of freedom from strife whether internal or external. Security from outward enemies (Isa. 26:12), as well as calm of heart for those trusting God (Job 22:21; Isa. 26:3), is included. Peace is so pleasing to the Lord that the godly are enjoined to seek it deligently (Ps. 34:14; Zech. 8:16, 19). It is to be a characteristic of the NT believer also (Mark 9:50; II Cor. 13:11). Peace is a comprehensive and valued gift from God, and the promised and climaxing blessing in messianic times (Isa. 2:4; 9:6-7; 11:6; Mic. 4:1-4; 5:5).

"To hold one's peace" means simply to be silent (Luke 14:4). The words in the OT (e.g., haras) and the NT (e.g., siopao) have nothing in common with the words now under consideration.

In the NT the word has reference to the peace which is the gift of Christ (John 14:27; 16:33; Rom. 5:1; Phil. 4:7). The word is used many times to express the truths of the mission, character, and gospel of Christ. The purpose of Christ's coming into the world was to bring spiritual peace with God (Luke 1:79; 2:14; 24:36; Mark 5:34; 9:50). There is a sense in which he came not to bring peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:34). This has reference to the struggle with every form of sin. Christ's life depicted in the Gospels is one of majestic calm and serenity (Matt. 11:28; John 14:27). The essence of the gospel may be expressed in the term "peace" (Acts 10:36; Eph. 6:15), including the peace of reconciliation with God (Rom. 5:1) and the peace of fellowship with God (Gal. 5:22; Phil. 4:7).

The innumerable blessings of the Christian revolve around the concept of peace. The gospel is the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). Christ is our peace (Eph. 2:14-15); God the Father is the God of peace (I Thess. 5:23). The inalienable privilege of every Christian is the peace of God (Phil. 4:9) because of the legacy of peace left by Christ in his death (John 14:27; 16:33). These blessings are not benefits laid up in eternal glory only, but are a present possession (Rom. 8:6; Col. 3:15). Thus, peace is "a conception distinctly peculiar to Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatever sort that is" (Thayer).